Tag Archives: Mood charting

Mood charting revisited

The history of mood charting

The history goes back to the beginning of the twentieth century,  to a German psychiatrist Dr. Emil Kraepelin (and no,  I can’t pronounce his name either :)).  Photo credit: public domain.

He worked with color codes to chart episodes on a monthly basis.  The National Institute of Mental Health – Life Chart Methodology ~ NIMH-LCM™  (grief,  what a mouth full and I haven’t even said anything yet!) was built on Dr. Emil’s developed chart.

Dr. Kraepelin’s early studies found that patients often undergo a progressive increase in cycle frequency, or a decrease in the well interval between episodes; that initial episodes were often triggered by external events, but later episodes emerged spontaneously; and that affective illness tended to continue in families (genetic vulnerability).  (Source)

Two studies,  one conducted in 1997 and one in 2000,  proved the validity and reliability of the use of the NIMH-LCM™.

What to chart?

In no particular order:

  1. Sleep patterns – how many hours slept;  time we went to bed & got up; how well or fitful we slept.
  2. Stressful situations – be it related to family,  work, study etc.:  it has impact on our mood.
  3. Severity of mood – can be difficult at first;  at least I found it hard how to compare and compare to what,  but eventually when I kept on it I developed a feel for it.
  4. Medication use – particularly revealing when changing dosage or meds.
  5. Highest and lowest mood of the day.
  6. Exercise (or for me:  the lack thereof…) – and the effect on our mood.
  7. Physical health – what influence does being physically well / unwell have on our mood?
  8. Energy levels – could it show a possible upcoming mood change?
  9. For women: hormonal imbalances during our period and the influence on our mood.
  10. Side effects of our meds.
  11. Weight – jotting it down once at a certain day of the month.
  12. Therapy / Counseling sessions.
  13. Full moon – make a note of when the moon is full that month.
  14. Life / daily events – the good,  the better,  the bad and the ugly  (arguments;  disappointments;  fun happenings;  holidays etc.)
  15. Alcohol consumption.

By no means do you need to chart the whole list.  Find what you need,  make your own chart,  use existing charts  (printed or online).  In short:  find what works for you!

Why mood charting: 

  1. To identify early warning signs – like sleeplessness or too much sleeping.  (A sure sign for me that something is up!  Or down.)
  2. To manage our illness more successfully – knowledge of how we react to life’s daily challenges is power!!
  3. For medication management – with the numerous meds available these days,  it’s vital to know how we respond to whichever med(s) we are prescribed.
  4. To discover patterns otherwise difficult to detect.
  5. Because we think that we remember well,  but the truth is:  we don’t.
  6. It shows our progress – and when we deserve a slap on our shoulders!!
  7. Ultimately because it helps to keep ourselves well – by understanding which aspects of life interfere with our moods
Here you can find an earlier post I wrote about mood charting.

Finally

Keeping a daily journal is the only way to find out what is really going on in our lives in relation to our moods.  It is important to know what influences our moods and what in turn is influenced by our moods.  Besides,  it gives us more reliable and useful information  for us as well as our doctors / therapists / counselors.

If you find it difficult to use,  have initially a family member or good friend help you.  You might gain some valuable info that you yourself don’t see or notice.

When a good friend of mine helped me,  she told me she noticed that every time I was getting hypo manic I started to ‘talk’ with my hands and my eyes were getting big.  Signs that were impossible for me to ‘see’.  Now I know,  so I pay attention to these pointers.

Once we have more insight,  when necessary we can get help faster.  Consequently,  we might not dip as low or go as high as before.  Wouldn’t that be cool?!

To end I quote Stephen C. Murray :

Mood charting is a tool and like all tools it depends on both the quality of the tool and the skill of the person using it. If you have not used a mood chart you should give it a try to see if it helps with your therapy. The key to mood charting is in doing it daily, stay with a chart for a couple of months and see if it helps.

For more information on mood charts / charting:

Bipolar Network News – The latest news on bipolar disorder research and treatment.

Articles from Stephen C. Murray – Executive Director of the Cheryl T. Herman Foundation. The foundation promotes treatment, education and understanding for Mood Disorders.

MoodChart – MoodChart was developed by Dan Lieberman and Fred Goodwin, who are psychiatrists at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Other interesting posts:

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Symptoms

Medical treatment

Peeps that are important

Why mood charting?

How to help people with a mental illness

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Why mood charting?

One of the tools we,  BD’s,  can use is keeping a journal of our moods.

I have an  ‘official’  Life Chart Method Journal.  It contains two times 2 pages for each month,  divided in days.

The first set chronicles which  meds you are taking,  including the dosage, on a daily basis.  The other side deals with how many hours you slept each night,  chronicles your weight and in graph style shows your mood.  There is a special line,  separate from the chart,  where you indicate a mixed mood.

The second set of two pages is for recording the main things that happened that day,  you can give it a number saying how much an event influenced you for better or worse.  You can also chart the times your mood changed during the day.  Finally you are supposed to give a percentage from zero being totally depressed to 100 being absolutely manic for each day.

When I first came back to the Netherlands I charted pretty consistently over a period of 4 months.  After that it got sketchy and then I stopped.  I am trying to pick it up again.

Source

Why mood charting?

  • It’s easier to see how a change in dosage/meds influences you, and how a med is affecting you
  • It shows clearly what meds do to your weight
  • It’s easier to see what happens with your sleeping pattern and how that reflects back on your moods
  • You get an eye for the influence of certain events in your daily life
  • It chronicles all the different meds and dosages you have been taking and after a certain amount of time it will show you how well (or not) you are doing with certain meds.

Of course,  in order for mood charting to be helpful,  one has to do it consistently.  Something that is not easy to do – at least for me!

The hardest part for me is to fill out the graph.  I find it real hard to figure out where I am on the pendulum of high and low.  When I am pretty depressed (nice combination of words 🙂 ),  or clearly hypomanic,  it’s easy enough.  But all those times in between…  I struggle where to put myself.

The space to relate life’s daily events is not enough – I have developed my own short hand I think!  How those events influence me is not too difficult to indicate (+4/-4).  But often there are uppers and downers during the day – so to record the overall state of my daily mood still remains a challenge.  Also,  indicating the percentage is an issue for me.

Overall I would say it’s been helpful to me to gain more insight in my BD.  I have started again because I am considering a med change together with my p-doc.  It’s good to have a sort of ‘base-line’ if you will,  even though it’s a line that goes up and down a lot!

Have you experience with keeping a mood chart?  How was it helpful to you?

Here is a list by Jim Phelps, M.D. of online mood charts.

Other interesting posts:

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Symptoms

Medical treatment

Peeps that are important

Mood charting revisited

How to help people with a mental illness

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